Review: Batman Volume 6 – Graveyard Shift

Batman Vol 6 Graveyard ShiftThe sixth volume of DC Comics’ Batman run features a collection of standalone issues and two-part storylines concocted by a variety of writers and artists. While previous volumes of Batman were seismic in their revelations and outstanding in their execution, Graveyard Shift isn’t as cohesive, and lacks the spark that made its predecessors essential purchases. Even so, it’s a fine prologue to Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s next blockbuster story-arc, Endgame, which is just now wrapping up in the comics.

Speaking of the acclaimed writer and artist pairing of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, they are the glue that holds Graveyard Shift together. Their Clay Face epic is brilliant, revitalising a long-dormant character, and their ‘zero’ issue, which turns back the clock and serves as a prologue to ‘Zero Year,’ is a lot of fun. Volume 6 of Batman turns the spotlight on less-vaunted writers (which is not to dismiss their sizable talent, because most creators pale in comparison to the megastar Snyder) such as James Tynion IV, Marguerite Bennett, Gerry Duggan, partnering them with incredible artists such as Any Kubert, Matteo Scalera, Alex Maleev and Dustin Nguyen present their take on the Caped Crusader. Batman’s grief over the loss of his son, Damian, binds several of these tales – the Dark Knight has never been great at deaths in the families – but long-time readers will feel this is well-treaded territory, and there’s not much here that revitalises the narrative.

Graveyard Shift also accelerates the world of Batman forward, showcasing a glimpse of the future in which Batman teams up with a new ally, Bluebird, as he takes on Gotham’s newest crime kingpin. It’s a solid story, introducing readers to a fresh status quo, but the collection’s shift from the past, to the present, and then to the future, means the volume lacks consistency. So the standalone story, The Meek, is therefore one of the most effective: really, it could take place at any time, and sees Batman solving a fairly standard (for him, anyway) serial killer case. Duggan and Scalera form a potent partnership to deliver a brilliantly dark story, and I hope to see them collaborate again.

So Graveyard Shift isn’t the standout collection in the ‘New 52’ Batman, but its solid smattering of crime stories makes it altogether worthwhile.

3 Stars Good

ISBN: 9781401252304
Format: Hardback (266mm x 176mm x 15mm)
Pages: 224
Imprint: DC Comics
Publisher: DC Comics
Publish Date: 12-May-2015
Country of Publication: United States

Review: Batman Vol 5, Zero Year – Dark City

Year ZeroThe second volume of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s “Zero Year” underscores the drastic tonal shift away from the seminal Batman origin story by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli, “Year One.” It is the perfect example of how malleable the Dark Knight is: soak him in noir or drop him in a dystopian sprawling epic, it doesn’t matter – under the helm of a great creative team, the character will thrive.

BATMAN: ZERO YEAR – DARK CITY presents The Riddler as we’ve never seen him before; a truly formidable foe, who has decimated Gotham City and rendered it his playground. Although Gotham City was similarly destroyed almost two decades ago in “No Man’s Land,” that tale starred a veteran Batman, whereas Snyder and Capullo present us with a Caped Crusader at the very beginning of his career; without all the gadgets, without the know-how, without the allies; whose resilience is being tested for the first time in ways he could never have envisioned.

Long-time readers will enjoying bearing witness to the solidification of relationships between Batman, Jim Gordon and Lucius Fox – indeed, all three play a key role in fighting back against The Riddler’s nefarious schemes – but Alfred Pennyworth gets the best moment in DARK CITY’s final pages, in a moment that we’ve seen before, but has never been executed more potently; his vision for what Bruce Wayne’s life could – and possibly should – have been is incredibly heartfelt, underlining the importance of the character.

There are plenty of ‘cool’ moments in DARK CITY; our first glimpse at the inaugural Batmobile; Batman facing off against a pack of lions (seriously); Batman arriving in the nick of time on a motorcycle; a face-off with The Riddler, surrounded by lasers. By now we’ve run out of superlatives for Greg Capullo’s work – suffice to say, he’s now one of the defining contemporary Batman artists, not just of this generation, but of all time – and his work is a wonderful compliment to Snyder’s script, which flicks from heavy exposition to silent panels with aplomb. DARK CITY is further proof of two comics legends working in perfect harmony to create a storyline that will go down as one of the greatest Batman tales. Long may it continue.

My thanks to DC Entertainment & Net Galley for providing a review copy.

Review: Batman Vol. 4 – Zero Year: Secret City by Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo

Zero YearFrank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s BATMAN: YEAR ONE was a seminal work in the Caped Crusader’s history, which still resonates today, and remains one of my favourite Batman stories. But YEAR ONE is almost 30 years old now, and comics continuity is fluid, punctuated with spasmodic rehashes of identical concepts for each supposed ‘new generation’ of fans. ZERO YEAR marks Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s shot at ‘redefining’ the Batman origin story – and this collection, subtitled SECRET CITY, is the first part of their magnum opus, which immediately stands apart from the multitude of origin stories that have littered the Dark Knight’s existence. Miller and Mazzucchelli’s YEAR ONE was dark, grimy and gritty –Snyder and Capullo’s is not as overwhelmingly bleak, and strives to be more epic in scope.

BATMAN: ZERO YEAR – SECRET CITY introduces us to a decimated Gotham City; overgrown, its subway system under water. Even Batman is feeling the effects; our first introduction to him is iconic, posed on his motorcycle in a battered costume; sleeves torn, cape replaced by a backpack stocked with survival gear. The story then immediately shifts backwards again, to five months earlier, where a vigilante Bruce Wayne – yet to adopt the cape and cowl, instead utilizing fundamental disguises – has confronted the Red Hood, the madman who has been terrorizing the city through random acts of violence. We learn that Bruce has only recently returned to Gotham, but hasn’t yet revealed himself: he’s still legally dead, and wants to keep it that way: he doesn’t believe Bruce Wayne has a role to play in Gotham’s resurgence; the city can’t be saved through the ideologies of a billionaire.

SECRET CITY spotlights Bruce’s skirmishes with the RED HOOD, and his gradual implementation of the Batman identity.  Writer Scott Snyder excels at capturing Bruce’s young, petulant voice – he’s not the confident veteran we read week in and out; he’s inexperienced and unprepared, but cocky. He’s a man on a mission, without the means or the mentality to accomplish his objective, and here we see him fail multiple times; one of those failures is particularly brutal, as the Red Hood and his crew tear into Bruce and vandalize his home. Snyder’s pitch perfect script is wonderfully rendered by Scott Capullo, who must now rank as one of Batman’s finest artists. He doesn’t just perfectly capture those iconic action set pieces – the quieter moments are rendered with equal expertise. Artist Rafael Albuquerque is also on hand for the shorter anecdotes at the end of this volume, which demonstrate a teenage and twenty-something Bruce Wayne learning essential lessons that’ll stick with him through his crime-fighting career.

BATMAN: ZERO YEAR – SECRET CITY is a fine start to start to Batman’s new origin, and ends, as you’d expect with a cliff-hanger, which potentially revitalizes one of the villain’s from Batman’s rogues gallery. It’s the perfect jumping-on point for newcomers, while long-time readers will find this origin tale explores a very different side of the Batman mythos. At this stage in my comics-reading life, I’ve read several origin tales, some of which live long in comics’ continuity, while others quickly fade. There is no chance of the latter in this case.